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Historic downtown home gets new life as Dining Inn

Inn will host lawmakers during session, vacationers in summer

Posted: January 22, 2014 - 1:03am
Owner Deborah Bowes shows one of her newly remodel rooms at The Dining Inn on Tuesday.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Owner Deborah Bowes shows one of her newly remodel rooms at The Dining Inn on Tuesday.

After 55 weeks of fixing up a 110-year-old house, Deborah Bowes finally opened her doors — and just in time for legislative session, too. Before all the fresh paint on the century-old walls could dry, the Dining Inn on Seward Street became the temporary home of four legislators.

The inn isn’t your average hotel, or even your average bed and breakfast, Bowes said. It’s technically a “vacation rental by owner” — guests can stay for extended periods because all the amenities of an apartment are available there, including a large shared kitchen, multiple bathrooms and a laundry room. Guests are responsible for cooking their own meals.

“It’s like a bed and breakfast, without the breakfast,” Bowes said.

Bowes opened shop last week, and she’s already filled the place for the session, which started Tuesday and continues through April. She said she received an overabundance of calls from legislators hoping to book a room, and two of her tenants have already said they want to rebook for the next session.

The cozy house is decorated in tasteful, yet interesting, neutral tones and has modern amenities but maintains its pre-statehood charm. The character of the original house is palpable, even after an update.

“I made this place to be comfortable, and homey, and a place you can relax in,” she said.

When the renovations are complete, Bowes will have six rooms to rent out.

“Once (the legislators) go, it kicks into being a vacation rental by owner,” she said. “We won’t have a lot of time between the session ending and summer starting again.”

She said her first rental of June is a wedding party. The group booked the entire house — the main and second floor. Bowes said she’ll only rent the second floor as a set; because of the roof’s slant, the rooms are much smaller than those of the main floor.

“It’s great for a family or a group,” she said.

The Dining Inn is new to Juneau, but Bowes is not. In 1991, Bowes sailed to Juneau on a 94-foot yacht from her home country of Australia. Since then, she’s spent all her time in Juneau in the hospitality industry — either as a bartender or waitress.

A child of European parents, she fondly recalls spending vacations there, staying in bed and breakfasts. It’s that style of hospitality from which Bowes drew the idea for the Dining Inn.

“I’d always rather spend time in a bed and breakfast” than a traditional hotel, she said.

The house has a story of its own. Built in 1904, the so-called Mullins House originally stood in a different place than it does today. When Sixth Street’s Juneau High School — now known as the Terry Miller Legislative Building — was built in 1928, the Mullins House, along with several others, was moved uphill and out of the school’s way with the help of platforms and horses, according to a past Empire report.

Kay Smith, Pat Denny and Sue Glocke bought the house in 1983 and renovated it as a bed and breakfast. It was later reconfigured into individual apartments, Bowes said. She purchased the house in September 2012 and began renovating.

Much of the furniture and the doors — and even some of the doorknobs — in the house are original, she said, dating back to its 1904 construction. Bowes even refurbished the house’s clawfoot bathtub and incorporated it into one of the new bathrooms.

Although they didn’t come with the house, four antique, carved beds fill the bedrooms. As much of the furniture as possible is antique, Bowes said.

“Craigslist, garage sales and Alaska Dames furnished this house,” she said.

Handyman Max Tarquino has worked on the house from the beginning of Bowes’ project. A former ferry system employee, he found himself needing work after deciding to go back to school for an engineering degree. He happened upon this job and has been having a good time restoring the old building.

“It’s been fun trying to get it finished,” he said. “I’ve been the mover, the cleaner, whatever work came up, I did it.”

Much of the original hardwood flooring remains in the house, Tarquino said. When Bowes bought the house, the floors had been painted pink. Tarquino sanded them down to their natural color. He said he often wonders who worked on the house more than 100 years ago.

“To be a part of this project has been really cool, especially working on a historic home,” he said. “One hundred years from now, they’ll wonder who did that.”

Right now, he’s working on restoring the lower level, which will serve as Bowes’ living quarters when it’s done.

He motioned toward an old, carved door to the downstairs patio. He recently sanded off the old finish to make way for new.

“The texture on it is really cool — it’s old,” he said. “Restoring the door, that’s a project in itself. I’m making it so it lasts another 100 years.”

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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